Normally in workers compensation matters, injuries sustained are physical injuries and the worker would generally receive compensation for injury sustained. However, injured workers with a psychiatric injury face tougher opposition for compensation through the workers compensation scheme. The entitlements for an injured worker with a psychiatric injury is similar to that with a physical injury however, there is a threshold in order to receive lump sum benefits for impairment and pain and suffering. The threshold for a psychiatric injury is 15% whole person impairment (WPI). An impairment of 14%WPI will not attract any compensation. For physical injuries, a worker only needs to have an impairment of 1% whole person impairment.
It is even more difficult to obtain benefits where it involves bullying and harassment. These types of matters are very difficult to prove as generally there is very little support by work colleagues who will be willing to act as witnesses.
One of our clients had developed a significant psychiatric injury as a result of been constantly bullied and harassed by a colleague. Due to the injury, she was unable to continue with her work and required treatment which included attendance to a psychiatrist, counselling with a psychologist and the use of medication. The treatment was expensive and adding to her woes, the insurer had declined ongoing payments for weekly compensation and refused to meet treatment cost.
The injured worker had contacted Gerard Malouf & Partners for assistance in her claim. Quickly we had found out that we were going to obtain very little support from her work colleagues as supportive witnesses. Co-workers are reluctant in fear of facing similar harassing treatment. This did not deter us here at GMP. Instead we went out and obtained various statements of family members and friends and also relevant medical evidence which clearly supports the events which took place at work and also supports the significance of the psychiatric injury in which this individual had developed.
The claim for the worker proceeded to a conciliation/arbitration which is the normal processes when matters are disputed. Unfortunately, the insurer offered very little by way of compensation. To the insurer’s own detriment, the claim did not settle and the matter proceeded to arbitration. It was very clear to the Arbitrator that the injuries sustained by our client resulted during the course of her employment.
The outcome of the arbitration was favourable to our client who received her entire payments of weekly compensation which was back dated from May 2011 to the present date and continuing. All her medical expenses were to be repaid.
She was then referred to an Approved Medical Specialist for a final determination on impairment, to deal with lump sum benefits. As mentioned above, psychiatric injuries only attract lump sum benefits if the impairment reaches a threshold of 15% whole person impairment or more. Not surprising to us at Gerard Malouf & Partners, we obtained the result that we expected and that the worker actually exceeded the 15% whole person impairment threshold.
The worker received her full entitlements which were not compromised in any way. The lesson we set out to show here at Gerard & Malouf Partners is that bullying and harassment has no place in the workplace or anywhere else.